Obama Administration Takes Sides In Aereo Case, Asks Supreme Court To Side With Broadcasters

The legal hill that cloud-based TV service Aereo has to climb just keeps getting a little bit steeper. This week, interested parties filed their briefs in Aereo’s Supreme Court case. Broadcast networks and cable companies hate Aereo, but now even the Obama administration is joining the pile-on, too.

The Supreme Court agreed in January to hear broadcasters’ case against Aereo this spring. As Deadline reports, yesterday the office of the Solicitor General filed an amicus curiae brief on the side of the broadcasters.

An amicus brief is a chance for interested parties to throw their opinions into someone else’s trial. And the administration’s opinion is that Aereo is up to no good, copyright-wise. The brief urges the court to side with the broadcasters, saying, “the proper resolution of this dispute is straightforward,” and adding:

Unlike a purveyor of home antennas, or the lessor of hilltop space on which individual consumers may erect their own antennas … [Aereo] does not simply provide access to equipment or other property that facilitates customers’ reception of broadcast signals. Rather, respondent operates an integrated system … whose functioning depends on its customers’ shared use of common facilities. The fact that as part of that system respondent uses unique copies and many individual transmissions does not alter the conclusion that it is retransmitting broadcast content ‘to the public.’ Like its competitors, [Aereo] therefore must obtain licenses to perform the copyrighted content on which its business relies.

The brief makes sure to clarify that just because they think Aereo is playing around with copyright, though, they don’t want all cloud-based tech, or new ventures, upturned. Though it claims the conclusion the court should draw is “straightforward,” it adds: “That conclusion, however, should not call into question the legitimacy of businesses that use the Internet to provide new ways for consumers to store, hear, and view their own lawfully acquired copies of copyrighted works.”

Several other businesses and groups have also filed amicus briefs related to the case this week. Cable and technology groups have asked the court to take a narrow view of Aereo’s specific actions, rather than to look at cloud-based broadcasting technologies as a whole.

Aereo, meanwhile, rapidly continues to expand its service to new cities, despite legal pushback.

White House Backs Broadcasters In Aereo Case [Deadline, via The Verge]

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  1. CommonC3nts says:

    If Aereo is illegal than all companies that lease any equipment are illegal.

    • ResNullum says:

      Uh, no. When you rent equipment, the object you are renting leaves the rental company, and they neither house nor care for it while it is out of their possession and the rental agreement is still valid. A more apt comparison could be made to leasing hardware in a colocation centre, but there generally aren’t laws on top of the lease that govern the content being transmitted through the hardware.

      This is a special case that is the result of outdated laws governing technology no one foresaw when said laws were passed.

      • EducationalGeek says:

        This administration is so stupid. Aereo is only doing favors to those of us who can’t receive normal local channel HD even with an antenna due to the distance from transmission towers. At best, even with a top of the line outdoor antenna on the roof of my second story, aligned accordingly I can receive only 3 channels and those are pixelated half the time due to atmospherics. As a former radioman in the military, I do know about RF transmission and reception. While saying everyone should have access to broadband internet, this is being hypocritical.

  2. C0Y0TY says:

    Dear God– er, Court: favor me and smite others doing the same as me. I’ll give you money for it.